Behind the Wheel

2021 Mercedes-Benz E 350 Review: More of the same is good enough

The E 350 is a good car, but its safety systems keep it from being great.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

If you were expecting something drastically different form the 2021 Mercedes Benz E-Class, you'd be sorrily mistaken. That isn't a bad thing, however. Mercedes-Benz delivering exactly what you expect the Mercedes-Benz E 350 to deliver is exactly what buyers are looking for.

The sedan has been given a refresh the 2021 model year. If you've been in any other 2021 Mercedes model you might look at the E-Class and go, "yep, that works" and you wouldn't be wrong. The look doesn't invoke an emotional response but rather a satisfied nod in the Merc's direction.

The base model E 350 has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine under its hood that is good for 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Shifting through the nine-speed automatic is smooth as silk and acceleration is rapid enough for the average citizen. Other E-Series models get more power and added EQ Boost mild-hybrid technology.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E 350 The back of the Mercedes E 350 is stately.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

2021 Mercedes-Benz E 350

The new MBUX infotainment system features two 12.3-inch displays under one screen cover, just like in other Mercedes models like the GLA and GLS. The cockpit screen can be themed to Modern Classic, Sport, Progressive, and Discreet themes. There's also mood lighting that can be changed to the color of the driver's choice. Mainly it just serves as a distraction that reflects on the windows at night.

The touch pad for the infotainment screen remains groan-worthy. In some ways it functions well (swiping, making selections) but in most others the touch pad just services as a continuous reminder that it a touch screen is best and a touch pad, styled like what is in the 2022 Acura MDX, would serve better.

What does work well is the car's navigation system. The augmented display features easy-to-understand turn-by-turn directions that give the driver a better idea of where to turn than any system on the market today.

Its cabin is well-appointed and offered with a variety of textiles and finishes that range from mundane to eyebrow-raising. Seats have remained predictably comfortable for short trips but hard for long stretches of driving. There's plenty of room in the back seat for two adults and trunk space is nothing to sneeze at.

The interior is very much what you'd expect from a modern Mercedes.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The car's steering wheel has a sensor that is able to tell if your hands are off of it for even an instant and reminds you to do so. For anyone that travels distances, especially in a relatively straight line, the annoyance of not being able to drive one-handed is a nag on the driving experience.

It's not short on other safety features either, including Active Speed Limit Assist that lessens the speed you are traveling to the speed limit when the car passes and reads a speed limit sign. At best, the tech is an annoyance masquerading around as a safety feature. At worst, the safety feature becomes a safety hazard when the traffic all around the car begins whizzing by you as you try to get back to where you were and reset.

The car's safety systems are a distraction.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

That's the long and the short of it. Mercedes has once again made a car that you'll be comfortable owning, even liking, though it won't be a passionate love affair due to the increased nagging of the car's safety systems and the continued presence of the infotainment touch pad.

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Domino's and Nuro announced their partnership in 2019 — and now the robots are hitting the roads.

Photo courtesy of Nuro

After announcing their partnership to work on pizza deliveries via self-driving robots in 2019, Dominos and Nuro have officially rolled out their technology to one part of town.

Beginning this week, if you place a prepaid order from Domino's in Woodland Heights (3209 Houston Ave.), you might have the option to have one of Nuro's R2 robot come to your door. This vehicle is the first do deliver completely autonomously without occupants with a regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a news release.

"We're excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino's customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston," says Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, in the release. "There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations."

Orders placed at select dates and times will have the option to be delivered autonomously. Photo courtesy of Nuro

Nuro Domino's delivery vehicle

The Nuro deliveries will be available on select days and times, and users will be able to opt for the autonomous deliveries when they make their prepaid orders online. They will then receive a code via text message to use on the robot to open the hatch to retrieve their order.

"Nuro's mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we're launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino's," says Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president, in the release. "We're excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino's customers in Houston. We can't wait to see what they think."

California-based Nuro has launched a few delivery pilots in Houston over the past few years, including the first Nuro pilot program with Kroger in March 2019, grocery delivery from Walmart that was revealed in December 2019, and pharmacy delivery that launched last summer.

From being located in a state open to rolling out new AV regulations to Houston's diversity — both in its inhabitants to its roadways, the Bayou City stood out to Nuro, says Sola Lawal, product operations manager at Nuro.

"As a company, we tried to find a city that would allow us to test a number of different things to figure out what really works and who it works for," Lawal says on an episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It's hard to find cities that are better than Houston at enabling that level of testing."

You can find out which self-driving vehicles are being tested in your neck of the woods by clicking here.


This article first appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site InnovationMap.

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The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is on sale now.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG
The all-electric range of the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 has been confirmed. The model is the first modern electric Volkswagen to be sold in the U.S. and a model that the German automaker is resting a lot of hopes on for the future of sales in the country.

The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro with all-wheel drive will achieve an EPA-estimated 260 miles of all-electric range on a full charge. The ID.4 Pro S and 1st Edition, which have more features and equipment and therefore weigh more, achieve an estimated 250 miles of range.

The EPA-estimated fuel economy for ID.4 Pro RWD is 107 MPGe in the city; 91 MPGe on the highway, and 99 MPGe combined. The ID.4 Pro S and 1st Edition does slightly worse achieving 104 MPGe in the city, 89 MPGe on the highway, and 97 MPGe combined.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4: Exterior The "1st" badging denotes the vehicle as a first edition model. Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

These new numbers come as part of a second round of EPA testing. Original testing found that the model did not quite hit its target.

How does that compare to other EVs? The Nissan Leaf Plus offers 226 miles of all-electric power. The Hyundai Kona Electric delivers 258 miles. Volvo's XC40 Recharge has just 208 miles of all-electric range but the Tesla Model Y can go up to 326 miles on one full charge.

First out of the Volkswagen gate will be ID.4 models with an 82-kilowatt-hour battery and rear-mounted AC permanent-magnet synchronous motor. That system delivers 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque.

At a public DC fast-charging station with 125 kW charging, the ID.4 can go from five to 80 percent charged in about 38 minutes. With purchase, ID.4 owners receive three years of unlimited charging at Electrify America DC Fast Chargers at no additional cost.

The 2021 ID.4 is on sale now, with pricing for the rear-wheel-drive ID.4 Pro starting at $39,995 MSRP, before a potential Federal tax credit of up to $7,500. The Pro S carries an MSRP of $44,495. The limited-run ID.4 1st Edition, which sold out the day the vehicle was launched, carried an MSRP of $43,995.

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